Deadline for city's Internet cut-off rescinded

Internet consortium that threatened to kill Palo Alto's connection agrees to keep City of Palo Alto hooked up until formal agreement is reached

An Internet service provider that last week threatened to pull the plug on the City of Palo Alto's Internet connection has agreed to keep the city hooked up until a formal agreement is reached.

The nonprofit Internet Systems Consortium (ISC), which has been providing free Internet access to Palo Alto for 17 years, gave the city a two-week notice of termination last Wednesday (March 29). The service was to end April 14.

Stephen Stuart, a Crescent Park resident who built the original Internet server and arranged the deal for the city, decided to rescind the informal arrangement after city planners gave a tentative approval to AT&T to put a 50-foot cell tower on St. Albert the Great Church at 1095 Channing Ave.

Stuart, who lives on the block, argued in a letter to the city that the approval violates the city's zoning regulations and threatens to bring down the property values on the block. His severed reltionship surprised city officials and prompted them to scramble to find a new Internet provider.

Since then, however, the ISC and Palo Alto City Manager James Keene reached an agreement to keep City Hall plugged into the Internet until the city either reaches a formal agreement with the consortium or finds a new provider, Keene announced in a statement Monday. The consortium is now putting together a proposal listing the services it provides to the city and the terms under which it would continue to provide these services.

Keene said in the statement that the consortium has also agreed to give some technical assistance to Palo Alto along with a "reasonable amount of time" to switch to a new provider if the city opts to do so.

Keene said city and consortium officials have agreed to meet soon and determine the best way to move forward.

"We are very appreciative that ISC will ensure our continuity of Internet service," Keene said in the statement. "I think that once ISC understood the gravity of the situation for the City, they were immediately willing to work with us to resolve the situation."

As part of the longstanding, unofficial agreement, Internet Systems Consortium had been providing Internet access to the Palo Alto Unified School District and Media Center, along with the city. It did not plan to cut service to the district or Media Center, however.

Laura Hendriksen, the consortium's director of business operations, said she could not comment on negotiations with the city at this time, but an email she provided to the Weekly that was sent to Keene on April 4 apologized for the abrupt manner in which the incident was handled.

"ISC issued the disconnect due to the withdrawal of sponsorship and volunteer efforts by Stephen Stuart," she wrote.

"While Mr. Stuart was the key driver in the initiation of this service, the service is currently provided by ISC to the city.

"Unfortunately this service was not covered under any contract or service agreement due to the way this relationship developed. ISC was unclear exactly what services are being provided to the city and on what terms. We now understand our undocumented role," she wrote.

Regardless of whether the city chooses to stick with ISC or picks another provider, ISC would work to assure a smooth transition, she said.

Stuart said by phone on Monday that he was glad the city and ISC are working together.

"I think it's great that they connected with each other and came to an agreement that does not involve me," he said.

Stuart's wife, Tru Love, said on Tuesday that their home has been vandalized since news reports came out about the severed relationship between Stuart and the city.

The couple has received support from a number of strangers who agree with the couple's stance on the cell tower, she said.

But someone removed several boards from her garage on April 5 and jammed them into her electronic gate, causing it to break, she said. She has called the police to report the vandalism.

"It's one thing to have a conversation, but to do vandalism against someone who is speaking out is another," she said.

"It's disturbing and overwhelming. I expected so much more from Palo Alto."

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Like this comment
Posted by Maggie
a resident of Monroe Park
on Apr 4, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Stephen Stuart has been a valued Palo Alto community volunteer for two decades, helping design and build the successful Palo Alto dark fiber network. He was instrumental in developing the Palo Alto Internet Exchange (PAIX) where over 70 Internet providers peer. He is a long time volunteer to the Media Center and helped design the I-Net which Comcast acquired to serve municipal buildings, schools in four districts, and the Media Center. Unbeknownst to most, Mr. Stuart also helped establish a non-profit which donated the equipment and services to interconnect Palo Alto municipal buildings and services to the Internet.

He did so without payment or public thanks for nearly two decades. This is a good citizen, any way you look at it.

Unfortunately, other city actions frustrated Mr. Stuart enough to reduce his passion for continuing his significant contributions to the city's Internet connection.

It can happen to any one of us who feel passionately about community issues. It is gratifying to see a more moderate approach is being taken to resolve this challenging situation.

Like this comment
Posted by thug
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 4, 2011 at 7:33 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by More-PA-Incompetence
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2011 at 7:52 pm

> He did so without payment or public thanks for nearly two decades.

This represents a huge failure on the part of the City Management. It sounds like the City owes possibly $1M-$2M for unpaid Internet bills.

Sad .. really sad ..

Like this comment
Posted by Wondering
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 4, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Wondering what caused this change of plans. Perhaps the ISC did not want stuart speaking for them or maybe they realized their tax exempt status may be in danger or maybe they, like me, found stuarts actions childish and reprehensible. Either way the city should sever all ties with the ISC quickly. Mr stuarts attempts to bully the city have failed. Good.

Like this comment
Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 4, 2011 at 8:10 pm

"Stephen Stuart has been a valued Palo Alto community volunteer for two decades"

Maybe so, but his recent behavior wiped out any good will owed to him.

No "Tall Tree" award for him.

Maybe the "Stilted poison oak."

Like this comment
Posted by Bruce L.
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 4, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Well, it's good to know that once the crying towel dried out rational thinking prevailed!

Like this comment
Posted by Bikes2work
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Apr 4, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Please can we just get a new cell tower at the Church? I'm tired of not having a signal at Lucie Stern Community Center.

Like this comment
Posted by henry
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 4, 2011 at 11:57 pm

Mr. Stuart, Thank you for 17 years of internet service to the City. I hope things will work out for you at the end of this fiasco. There must be a commercial or city property where AT&T can locate a cell tower. The tremendous profit from rent in the amount of thousands of dollar should not go to a non-profit organization. If it is making this much of money, then it should pay tax and contribute to our government like the other companies and common citizen like us.

Like this comment
Posted by trudy
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 5, 2011 at 6:34 am

The city owes Stuart a lot. If I were him and that monstrosity appeared in my neighborhood, I would have given the city two weeks notice and pulled the plug.

Like this comment
Posted by Lois
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2011 at 7:44 am

"Stephen Stuart has been a valued Palo Alto community volunteer for two decades".

So what, there are many fine citizens of Palo Alto who have worked for the City in a volunteer capacity for 20 years and longer. Stephen Stuart is not unique.

Like this comment
Posted by asdf
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 5, 2011 at 9:14 am

"Stephen Stuart has been a valued Palo Alto community volunteer for two decades"

Guess what he'll be remembered for. He wiped out all that good work in a single moment of spite.

Like this comment
Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 5, 2011 at 9:35 am

On a related matter, I respectfully urge the City to deny the appeal filed over the approval of the new cell antenna on Channing.

Adequate or robust cell coverage is a critical public utility in today's world.

It's unfortunate Mr. Stuart has put his interests above those of so many others; it's unfortunate, too, that Mr. Stuart's appeal overlooks key data not 'in sync' with his desires here.

Like this comment
Posted by Thankful
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 5, 2011 at 10:45 am

Stephen Stuart has done a LOT both for the city and for PAUSD. I am thankful for his help and glad to see this story.

Like this comment
Posted by Concerned Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2011 at 11:25 am

There should be no one citizen or entity, given power to control the whole city to the point that decisions are requested that are not in the best interest of ALL citizens.

I'm glad this was brought to public attention, albeit through Mr. Stuart's attitude of sour grapes. I attended the meeting held at the Church, and felt the officials, and the citizens that spoke that were educated in the towers field, spoke wisely and they used FACTS.

Whereas, I felt the cell phone tower people were just not being heard by the cell phone foes; they were rudely treated & accusations that were totally unfounded were hurdled against the church then, &
later, and by a handfull of irate bullies.

Twenty years of his service ought to be recognized and applauded. But a lot of citizens have given twenty years and even more than that, to Palo Alto, all for no thanks and for no recognition.

Having an "in" at the city ought not imply that he (or others like him) can bully the city into doing whatever they wish. All decisions must be made with accurate data, and in the best interest of the whole community.

There needs to be transparency, accountability, communication, and trust among all the parties at the City, Council and the general public. Who knew "civic engagement" was being done like this, 17 years ago.

The City should be paying its own bills, and not become beholden to any one person, in the event he/she gets into a snit, takes their marbles and goes home, like what happened now.

That's no way to run a city. It should serve as an example of what NOT to do- putting all the city's eggs in one basket, and being at the mercy of one person: not a wise move. Live & learn.

Congratulations to all the parties that got together quickly, and to resolve this equitably; so far, sanity has prevailed.

Like this comment
Posted by happy ending
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 5, 2011 at 11:46 am

This is wonderful news all around in my opinion:

-The City becomes someone's contractually paying customer for services provided(hopefully ISC's if it works for them, with appreciation for past services rendered gratis, over the Evil AT&T near-monopoly)

-AT&T, after a protracted battle, gets to serve its paying customers after a transparent and open regulatory process in which science and respect for the Commons triumphed

-Anyone who lent any marbles out gets them back to squirrel away in their toybox.

Questions: Since true "free stuff" is rare without strings, especially when it must cost to provide, and apparently no one wrote anything down, was the "free service" some quid pro quo for other issues (test bed for a new technology?) at the time this started?

Like this comment
Posted by JT
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 5, 2011 at 3:37 pm

It’s suspicious to me how Stuart, who says he’s just a “volunteer” at ISC, can make a decision like this on behalf of ISC. Isn’t there a board of directors or an executive director? ISC’s website is vague. The newspapers say the ISC people won't return reporters' calls.

And what justification does a nonprofit have in making a decision simply because one of its volunteers is worried the real estate value of his home might be reduced? It seems Stuart is using the nonprofit for his own personal purposes. I’m going to contact the IRS and see if a nonprofit can keep its tax exempt status when it is used for personal purposes like this.

Like this comment
Posted by Forget about it
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 5, 2011 at 7:09 pm

Stuart claims his home value will decrease, but does her provide prof proof? Claiming home price will decline its a tried and true scare tactic. The real question is does the city have the obligation to protect the home value for an owner. If something done for the public good leads to decreased property values, should the project be abandoned in order that the home owner maintains his investment. On another note there are many questions raised by ISC and stuarts actions that need answering.

Like this comment
Posted by paly observer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 15, 2012 at 12:34 am

Stephen Stuart and Tru Love are self serving and manipulative. They took a good thing they were doing as community service and spit all over the concept of 'service'. Community service is about giving without taking back. By expecting a quid pro quo roll-over from the city on their ill conceived and factually groundless objection to an essential community infrastructure project they acted as arrogant nouveau riche are stereotypically expected to act. Tru is particularly egregious though, being both belligerent and ignorant. Sort of like a drunken fool without even needing to take a drink, it's sadly just a permanent state. Thank goodness they moved to Los Altos, and good riddance. It won't be long before they are picking fights there too, so brace yourself, Los Altans.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Fairmeadow

on Jun 6, 2017 at 5:00 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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